Written by: Sam Chechik ’17, St. Louis University High School
We all need to be humbled at one point or another, and no one knows that better than me.
In my previous blog entry, I wrote about how I went on a weeklong service trip in Camden, New Jersey. One of the many lessons I learned from that experience was that most things must be done with help from others.
Serving others through physical labor and presence forced me into a humble position. Throughout the week, an overwhelming sense of humility washed over me, smoothing the rough edges of my ego.
I love my life and where I am with God. I love how my family and friends support and cherish me. There’s just one thing that I absolutely dislike about myself and the way I treat others: my pride.
Arguably the worst of the seven deadly sins, pride boils down to feeling that you are more important than others. Take the words “conceited,” “self-centered,” “egotistical” and take them up a few notches. That’s pride.
In Dante’s Inferno, the author writes, “Envy and Arrogance and Avarice are the three sparks that have all hearts enkindled” (Canto VI, Lines 74-75). Arrogance here means pride, and this flame of pride constantly burns within me.
Don’t get me wrong; I do try to dispel the pride in my heart. I desire to make God the One above all else. This pertains to social justice, too. Helping others shrinks my view of myself. When I look at those who have so little—next to nothing—I question myself: Why is there inequality?
Luke writes in his Gospel that “everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 14:11). Humbling yourself is valuable. Even though I can’t do everything on my own, some things need to be done alone. Fighting my pride is my own battle, and it’s one that I can make against God, or with God.
Pride makes us see ourselves as better than we are. We impress ourselves with our accomplishments, and we relish in the compliments of others. However, we also need to acknowledge our imperfections and failings along with our successes. And sometimes we need to be smacked in the face with some truth.
During my freshman year, I began learning how to be a news reporter. The moderator of my school newspaper told me that I needed to be the “dumbest” person in the room in order to ask the best questions.
In addition to reporting, we also need to act “dumb” to ask questions about issues we know nothing about, be it fair trade, immigration, or working conditions. We need to be able to “not know” about the conditions of poverty in Camden, so we can go there and ask better questions.
Before Camden, pride was in my mind and the heart. I didn’t want it there. I eventually came to see that being “dumb,” learning from others, and loving at all costs can point me to something greater than myself. God made sure of it.
I’ve learned that God is in everyone, and that there’s no need to put people down. It’s the flames of the Holy Spirit that should enkindle us, not flames of pride.
Lead your life in humility. Have your heart enkindled by the good flame, not the flame of pride.
That is the key to living with God. It’s better to be with Him than against Him.
Sam Chechik was raised in Saint Louis, Missouri. At his grade school, Saint Stephen Protomartyr, he got his first taste of service. After writing many reflections and going on multiple trips, he decided that this was something he wanted to continue for the rest of his life. Before high school, he worked with Saint Vincent de Paul, homeless shelters, and food pantries in the Saint Louis area. In grade school Sam’s passion for social justice was born, but it only started enkindling throughout his high school years.
Currently, Sam is a junior at Saint Louis University High School. During his first two years at SLUH, he has been involved in numerous activities. Besides being core staff on the school’s weekly student newspaper, the Prep News, he also advocates for social justice through Pax Christi, the SLUH social justice club. Having attended the Ignatian Family Teach-In the past two years, he has found a burning passion for social justice. During the Arrupe Leaders Summit in February 2015, Sam realized the true impact of social justice in the world. Back in Saint Louis, Sam heartily enjoys traveling weekly to different service sites around SLUH, and he found that joy culminate in his trip to Camden, New Jersey, for the Urban Challenge, a week-long trip to serve the underprivileged. Besides service, he also works closely with the Pastoral Team by helping to organize Masses, prayer services, and team-building activities. He remains active in the Campus Ministry program, even receiving an award for that same participation his freshman year.
Sam’s love for social justice can be summarized in one word: zeal. A synonym for passion, this word denotes the unfiltered fervor for one particular subject, that is, social justice. It is the enthusiastic desire to be immersed in something uncomfortable and love every minute of it. It is the true passion for social justice and the love of those who are mistreated in the world. The issues Sam loves to discuss are fair trade, immigration reform, and capital punishment. You can contact Sam at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’re interested.